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The Audubon Aquarium and Insectarium in New Orleans

In New Orleans, Riverfront Reception Venues Are New and Improved

The Audubon Aquarium is getting several new elements that will debut in June, while a new entertainment complex next to the convention center will be anchored by a TopGolf facility.

After the 2021 opening of a new Four Seasons hotel just half a mile from the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, New Orleans has two other projects in the works that will benefit groups that use the center for events.

In June, the Audubon Aquarium and Insectarium, set at the base of Canal Street next to the Four Seasons and on the banks of the Mississippi River, will reopen after a six-month, $34 million renovation. Besides refreshing its gathering spaces—the largest of which holds 750 for receptions while an outdoor pavilion and lawn can hold 10,000— the venue also refreshed its exhibit areas, with all-new looks for the galleries that focus on the Mississippi River and Amazon Rainforest along with the debut of a Top of the Gulf of Mexico experience. The renovation gave the aquarium an additional 17,000 square feet of space in its exhibit areas, installed a motion-reactive wall that interacts with guests, and created a new lobby with a large glass staircase and three-story glass exterior wall. Further, a new indoor garden features hundreds of free-flying butterflies, while a nearby three-story space has more than 60 free-flying tropical birds.

Closer to the convention center—right behind it, actually—a new riverfront entertainment and dining district is starting to rise. The first project: a four-story TopGolf facility that will open in January 2025.  It will include 102 climate-controlled hitting bays for year-round play with high-tech balls that score themselves when players hit targets in the landing area. The venue is being built with convention-related social events in mind, reflected in the bars and other gathering spaces away from the hitting bays along with a large kitchen to prepare food and beverage offerings on site.

“We are thrilled to join the new River District neighborhood and feel our location is ideal for serving the tourism and convention business, as well as the community as a whole,” said Matt Smith, senior director of real estate at TopGolf.

The convention center district is in the photo below, to the right of the bridge beyond the river. The aquarium is just to the right of downtown, on the riverfront.

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